house – day 261 – 268 – woodwork

Now the loft is finished I can concentrate on getting the rest of the house in order, so that we can get our stuff out of storage. When I started this longer stint, I’d hoped that by now I would be well into completing the woodwork in the remaining two rooms, but it was not to be. The day and a half I’d allocated for flooring the loft turned out to take about four days. Leaving me with roughly six days to get the house sorted. I don’t have enough time left this week to get any flooring down, but I can get everything else ready, so that I can start the flooring work next weekend, when I return.


Fiona was out in town today, so I used some of the quiet time to get some admin done and clear up the office. I’d moved a few doors and drawers around in the cabinets yesterday evening and installed suspension file drawers. I’ve finished most of the installation work in the office, so now I can clean it up and take away the tools.

I screwed the electrical sockets and switch back to the walls and installed a new aerial aerial socket in the study.

After lunch I started work on the fire surround. After weighing up a few options, it seems to me the best way to fit the surround to the wall is to fix it first to the wall and put filler in the gap. I’d considered building out the wall with wood, but the curved wall would be difficult to fit and would probably still need filler. I think I’ll be able to blend the filler and the wood of the surround -it should look seamless. But this means, I’ll have to paint the surround rather than varnishing it. It’s probably just as well, if I’d left the wood bare, the filler over the screw heads (and the other now-unused screw holes) would be visible. I’d considered getting a plug cutter to make caps for the screws, but some of the screw holes are large and irregular and it’s a lot of work. With all the woodwork the same colour (ie painted in Slaked Lime), I think the study will look a lot more harmonious.

I stopped working around five, to go and collect Fiona from Canterbury and to have a little drive in my new MX-5.


I need to finish off the hearth, so I can install the fire surround on top of it. I’m putting an oak strip around the hearth, replacing the temporary pine one I’d laid out for the fire installers. On removing the old strip, I was surprised to find the hearth tiles were not stuck down. I thought I would only have to grout them, to complete the heart, but no, the tiles were just placed on top of the screed. It’s a bit annoying, I have to get both adhesive and grout and I’ll have to wait for the adhesive to set before I can grout the tiles. Another irksome delay, although it does mean I can rearrange the tiles to make them fit more precisely and utilise the best of the batch. I also noticed that the installers had created a different arrangement of tiles to the one I’d shown them. The hearth is a little narrower, but it looks fine. There’s now a balance of red and ochre tiles, my version used a lot more red.

It took the rest of the day to finish the hearth.


We’re having half a day off, I’ve not had a break from work since my sister visited a few weeks ago. We did do a little prep work in the morning, rubbing down paintwork, filling etc and then we took the train to Broadstairs for a spot of lunch and a change of scenery – also to have a look in antique shops etc.


On with the renovation work. I set off bright and early to get timber for the skirting board that I need to make for the study, and sheets of plywood for the panelling in the hall.

Back at the house, I cut a couple of lengths of the new timber and used my new router cutters to produce the skirting I wanted. The skirting board in the study is tall and stepped. It uses two different profiles of timber laid one on top of the other and I have to recreate this effect. There are also three different moulding patterns in the room. There was no point trying to match any of them exactly – which one do you choose? Previous carpenters/restorers/bodgers hadn’t bothered to try. Instead, I emulated the style of the skirting nearest to the fire surround, making sure that my new mouldings were exactly the same height as their neighbours so they blend nicely. I only need four short pieces of each kind of skirting (eight pieces of timber in total), so I machined two planks of about 1.5 metres of timber. I hoped that would be enough – there’s not much room for error. I could have machined the full 2.4 metre planks, i have plenty of timber, but I don’t have a long enough workbench to do that safely and accurately.

With the skirting board timber prepared to my satisfaction, I decided to get started on the area under the stairs. A few months ago, I’d pulled down the flimsy, tatty, wonky, old plywood wall under the stairs. I Had decided I would replace it with a new wall in the same position, it’s useful and necessary storage space. Originally, the space under the stairs would have been open (hence the skirting board there), with a tiny cupboard enclosing the electricy supply under the first three steps. However, I wanted to create something more in keeping with the style of the house, but not attempt to recreate a solid wall, I’m putting in some wooden panelling. I’m not going to go to the trouble and expense of building actual panelling, I’ll fake it with stripwood on top of plywood boards. I could have done it with routed MDF, which is the usual way to do this nowadays (MDF is horrible stuff to work with). Faking it my way means you’ll see some wood grain under the paint an will look more authentic.

I’d built a door frame for the under stairs cupboard months ago (so it could be plastered in whilst the ceiling was being done), but I still needed to install stud work to support the panelling. However, before I could do that, I had to work out the precise placement of the panels. A while ago, I’d mocked up a number of images in a wide variety of panelling styles and decided five panels across would probably work best. (Ironically, it was the one option I didn’t mock up at the time.) To test the idea, I set pieces of timber against the stairs to simulate five-panel spacing and that did indeed seem to look OK. Conveniently, this option gives me two vertical studs that are ideally spaced to support the boards. The next issue to resolve was the vertical spacing of the panels. This would be set by the width of the plywood boards I’m using as I’ll be covering the joints between the boards with the wooden strips. I have to lay each sheet horozintally, so that the surface grain is vertical in the panels. The boards are 606mm wide which sets the spacing, if I don’t want to cut the boards any further. I wanted tall, thin panels and this vertical spacing seems to work OK and saves some work. This spacing also gives me only a couple of awkwardly shaped panels next to the stairs. Thanks to the width of the timber I’m using, the resulting panel size is approximately 240mm wide by 505mm high a ratio of roughly 1:2. Tall and thin, but the space I’m panelling is also tall and thin.

With the dimensions set, I could install the stud work and clad it with plywood.

I put some plywood down on the old floorboards under the stairs to form an even, hole-free cupboard floor, built the stud work frame and covered it in plywood panels. It took the rest of of the day to get this job done. Tomorrow, I’ll install the stripwood to create the panelled effect.


First thing, I fitted the fire surround to the wall and filled the gap behind it. It’s a deep gap in places and this large amount of filler will take some time to set. I can use the setting time to finish off the panelling. It took a couple of hours to get enough filler into the gap and make it smooth enough to minimise sanding later on, then I got back to the panelling in the hall.

I completed the panelling late afternoon and set to work again on the fire surround. I removed the broken, old skirting board at the sides of the chimney breast and cleared away the cement behind it, taking it back to the bricks. I need to put in some timber to support the new skirting board and the brick will give it a firm footing. I sanded the new filler at the sides flush with the wooden sides of the surround and it looked pretty good, just a little more work and it will not be noticeable. Fiona painted some primer on the filler to harden it. When it’s set, I’ll surface fill any rough bits, sand it and prime it again. I’ll do that tomorrow.


I cut and fitted the timber I’d prepared for the skirting board. A fiddly job as it’s a three-dimensional puzzle, with few right angles, it has to join to fancy moulding on the fire surround and there are eight pieces to cut. It took a few hours to do, but the result looks good. I’ll have to do a bit of filling in a couple of places, but the hard work has paid off. With the skirting board in place, all we now have to do is paint the woodwork in the study and then we can lay the floor.

I spent the rest of the day clearing tools away, tidying the workshop and cleaning up.


Today, we completed everything in the study that needed to be filled, sanded and primed. The new woodwork seamlessly blends in with the old and the fire surround looks great. Now all we have to do are topcoats on the remaining woodwork. We completed a fair amount of painting in the afternoon, but I had to leave to go back to the flat, as I’m working tomorrow. Fiona should be able to get most of it done during the rest of the week.

We’ve agreed Fiona will call the removals company tomorrow to arrange a date to deliver our stuff from storage. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, it’s hard to believe it will finally happen.